columnIsrael at War

Bashing Bibi helps Hamas

Anybody who parrots the slander that Netanyahu doesn’t care about returning the hostages is ruining the chance of a deal Israel can accept.

Protesters at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv call for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the immediate release of the hostages held in Hamas captivity, March 30, 2024. Photo by Itai Ron/Flash90.
Protesters at Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv call for the ouster of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the immediate release of the hostages held in Hamas captivity, March 30, 2024. Photo by Itai Ron/Flash90.
Ruthie Blum. Credit: Courtesy.
Ruthie Blum
Ruthie Blum, an author and award-winning columnist, is a former adviser at the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Relatives of hostages held in Hamas captivity gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday outside Defense Ministry headquarters. The purpose of their makeshift press conference/protest was to demand that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu resign or be ousted.

The Bibi-bashing event kicked off with a statement by the daughter-in-law of 80-year-old captive Yoram Metzger.

“We’ve all seen how Netanyahu sabotages hostage-release deals,” announced Ayala Metzger. “We’ve seen how his political self-interest repeatedly drives his decision-making, and how concern for the stability of his coalition takes priority over his duty to bring home our loved ones.”

She went on: “We were told to sit quietly; we were told to travel around the world [to garner international sympathy and enlist support for pressure on Hamas]. But after six months, the hostages are still in Gaza. This is a complete failure. This is a deliberate failure!”

Echoing her sentiment, Einav Zangauker, mother of 24-year-old hostage Matan, referred to Netanyahu as the “obstacle that consciously and deliberately prevents a deal.”

As a result, she stressed, the families now have no choice but to “do everything in our power to remove that obstacle…and start a new phase in our struggle. From now on, we will work for [Netanyahu’s] immediate replacement.”

Yael Or, aunt of Dror, 49, then called on Knesset members “whose consciences are shouting at them” to “help Israel make the most urgent and correct decision right now. Replace those who thwart the deal for personal reasons.”

Addressing ministers without Portfolio Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot—as well as MKs from the prime minister’s Likud Party—she announced, “Rescuing the hostages is your moral obligation. Do what is necessary to replace Netanyahu immediately.”

Yifat Calderon, cousin of 53-year-old Ofer, appealed to the coalition and the public to usher in a different leader—”one who puts the good of the country ahead of his personal considerations and understands how essential the immediate rescue of the hostages is to national security and resilience.”

With all due sympathy to the plight of the devastated families of the innocent men, women and children brutally abducted on Oct. 7 by Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists, their allegations against Netanyahu are not only false; they are counterproductive and dangerous.

In the first place, every move by Netanyahu and his government since that Black Sabbath nearly six months ago has been made with the hostages in mind. Indeed, much of the prosecution of the war in Gaza is based on fear of killing captives in the process of destroying Hamas.

Such a calculation was taken for granted from the very beginning by Israel Defense Forces soldiers, many of whom have fallen in battle, leaving their bereft families begging Netanyahu not to let those heroic deaths be in vain.

Secondly, through a combination of military pressure and the War Cabinet’s willingness to compromise, Netanyahu succeeded in securing the release of 112 hostages—in addition to three others saved by the IDF in rescue operations.

Third, anti-Netanyahu rallies for the “immediate release” of the hostages—as though Bibi has them handcuffed in his basement—serve only to encourage Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar to harden his already untenable stance.

His goal, after all, is remaining in power. You know, to rebuild his subterranean empire and arsenal with which to perform as many repeats of Oct. 7 as possible.

Fourth, Netanyahu’s brother, Yoni, was killed in the 1976 Entebbe Raid, a commando mission to free more than 100 Israeli and Jewish hostages held by Palestinian and West German hijackers of a flight from Israel to France. To suggest, let alone scream into a megaphone, that he is indifferent to the suffering of those in Hamas clutches is outrageous.

Thankfully, most of the hostage families do not agree with the view or tactics of their activist counterparts. Those who showed up on Saturday were relatives of 20 captives out of a total of 134.

But they came by their methods honestly, so to speak, with a little help from PR hack (aka “political strategist”) Ronen Tzur. Tzur, a veteran “anybody but Bibi” mover and shaker, took it upon himself to head the campaign on behalf of the hostage families.

He tried to use the perch as a platform for his anti-Netanyahu agenda. But his plan ultimately backfired.

Fed up with his outspoken partisanship, dozens of hostage families signed a petition in February demanding his departure. Their explanation was that “a consensus is needed in order to approve a deal for the release of the hostages, and one of the important prerequisites is operating under a leader who is not painted in one political color or another, through his fault or not.”

Tzur presented it differently. He averred that he was exiting his formal role out of concern for the families, who were “threatened” by right-wing politicians associating with him. He would be available, however, to occupy an advisory position behind the scenes.

Judging by a comment he posted on X (formerly Twitter), he kept his word. “Yoni [Netanyahu] fought to free hostages; Bibi is fighting to keep hostages in captivity,” he tweeted on Saturday. “Criminal.”

Anybody who parrots such slander is abetting Sinwar and ruining the chance of a deal that Israel can accept.      

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